Saturday, June 01, 2024

Sexual Abuse Warning - Topic May be Triggering for Some

My sister Sally is less than 2 years younger than me. My sister Karla is less than 5 years younger than me. I have written one story about Karla and myself. You can read it here. (Go ahead. It's really good.) I have never written anything about Sally even though we were really close (much closer than me and Karla.) The story that I have to share isn't a happy one.

Sally was better at keeping a low profile than me or Karla. She was the "responsible" one, and she stayed out of trouble. But, where Coulterville was the best thing to ever happen to me, it was the worst thing to ever happen to Sally. I am about to talk about things that I "know" but only from my point of view. I called Sally to ask if I could write about this and she graciously gave me her blessings. Sally is a very private person, and very guarded about what she says about Coulterville. So, this is a huge deal, but I think this is an important story to tell. 

I can't say if this is a real memory or a dream, it was so long ago, and it is the kind of thing that my brain would try to block out, to hide from. This is what I remember. Sally came to me one night in my room. We lived in Coulterville in the "big white house." Fred was living with us and Mom was pregnant with Chris (my baby brother.) Sally told me that Fred had touched her in an inappropriate way. 

I need to pause here. This is real. My blog is about comics and RPGs and fun. When I decided to include a memoir … I could have avoided this. This may not be what you want to read right now, but it's really important that I acknowledge that this happened. Our world isn't safe. Young, vulnerable, innocent people are betrayed and hurt and preyed upon by those that they love and trust everyday. I decided not to shy away from that. 

If you are reading this and something similar has happened to you. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are not at fault. Know that there is nothing wrong in seeking help. Find help. Your world is supposed to be better. Our world is supposed to be better.

I don't remember, but I know that Sally probably tried to "lessen" to "understate" what happened to her (to protect me.) She was struggling with what to do. Should she tell mom? I was shocked, and afraid, and angry, and crestfallen all at the same time. "Yes." I finally advised her. "You have to tell." She didn't want to because Karla and I were … happy. It didn't matter. She needed to tell mom. She wasn't safe. Karla wasn't safe. 

I said above that I wasn't sure that this memory was real or a dream. Perhaps that's guilt. Guilt because I didn't do more. I didn't do anything. I didn't help her. I didn't confront mom. I didn't confront Fred. I just kept hiding in my fantasies. I had my friends, and so, I abandoned my sister. Surely, that was a dream. What I do know is that what happened to Sally was real.

I didn't hear about this again. Sally didn't tell mom. I had always assumed that she did. That maybe somehow it had all been a misunderstanding. It wasn't. Sally admitted to me recently that I was the only one she told. (At least, at that time.) That she was afraid that mom wouldn't believe her. So, in that way, intentionally or not, Sally protected my world. My world didn't change. Sally's did. 

I never talked to Sally about this directly again. (Until just a few days ago.) Why didn't I? I want to cry as I write this, even now, especially now. I didn't do anything to help her. I wrapped myself up in the safety blanket of my new life and I "forgot."

Sally threw herself into school and avoided being home as much as she could. She began going to church all the time. I have other scattered memories, of clues, of bits of conversations. Sally sought the council of the church, I assume, because I remember her spouting something about "honoring thy father and thy mother" more than once. What fucking terrible advice. Why didn't I see it? Why didn't I do anything?

I remember months before this happened. A girl in my class was spitting such poison at me, and I called her out. She admitted that it wasn't me, it was my "father." Her mother had dated, had lived with Fred. "Tell your sisters to be careful of him." She told me. That was all she told me. 

I didn't heed the warning. I defended him. "He isn't like that." I suppose that I was thinking of the kind of abuse that we had suffered with Chuck. 

"Well, maybe he has changed." She said, "I hope so." 

She was his victim too. That's real too. Why did everyone including me protect this predator by denying or ignoring or justifying his terrible criminal monstrous behavior?

Sally lied about her age and got a job at a diner. She worked to save her own money, to avoid home, and to make an escape. Her constant attendance at church and her seclusion into the safety of faith alienated Sally from her classmates. She persevered through school, but she no longer loved it. She didn't seem to truly love anything anymore, but she clung to church.

When school was out for the summer, Sally went to a summer church camp. This took her completely away from home for a few months. I believe it was here that she finally did some real healing. Then it was back to school, back to work, back to church and as little time at home as possible. I remember that I went with her that next summer to the summer church camp. I was there for a few weeks, they were welcoming and kind. It was nice.

I had forgotten about the terrible things that I had heard. Blocked them out completely. They defined my sister's very existence. She had reached out to me for help. I had forgotten. I'm so sorry.

Sally attended the church camp during the summer before her sophomore, junior and senior school years. During the last two years she served as a camp counselor. She met other counselors, most only a year or two older than she was. A large contingent of these counselors had come to the summer camp from a Bible school. This school was called Rhema Bible College and was located in Tulsa, OK. 

During her senior year, Sally lived with our Aunt Darla. She continued in school, worked in a local diner to help pay her rent, and was even more dedicated to the church. After she graduated high school, as the next school year approached, Sally moved to Tulsa to attend Rhema Bible College.

It was over a year later that Mom called Sally and asked her to come get me. Sally now had a life in Tulsa. I was about to.

Addendum: Before posting this, I spoke to both of my sisters. I found out that in leaving her alone, Karla became the next target. Something that I didn't know, but should have suspected. Karla did tell mom. At this point, Sally stepped up and collaborated Karla's story.

Mom asked Karla (Who was 14, the same age that I was when I threatened to leave if Mom didn't leave Chuck.) if she wanted her to leave Fred. She should have just done it. She should have left. (She should have called the police.) She put it on Karla. That was a huge burden to place on the shoulders of a child. (I'm sure mom was scared. She now had a child with Fred - a toddler, a boy. It's still no excuse.) Karla relented, telling mom that she didn't have to leave. For her part, mom promised to never leave Karla alone with Fred.

So, Karla, like Sally had done before her, continued to live under this threat, doing everything that she could to avoid home. With no other option, at least in her eyes, Karla became pregnant. (What was she supposed to do, go to the police? – Fred's best friend, whom I mentioned previously, was the local Sheriff.) 

Karla became pregnant so that her boyfriend's father would let them get married. She was 16. Karla moved into the family home of her new husband and lived there until they finished highschool and were able to get a place of their own. They are still together today. They have been happily married for almost 40 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment